It was a gorgeous day. Crystal clear, warm, not hot. The kids were in school by 8:30. I met a friend after dropping the kids at school. My cell phone was out of juice. I left it on the counter at home charging. My friend and I sat at a coffee shop on Fifth Avenue here in Brooklyn discussing life, discussing things that seemed so trivial later that day. At one point while we were having coffee, I saw a crying woman pass. This didn't strike me as odd. You see a lot of emotions here on the streets of New York. We also noticed a stream of police cars racing past. Another thing that didn't seem unusual. As I left the coffee shop to walk the three short blocks home, I noticed a bad smell in the air. Again, not something that unusual (not until later did it become so bad we had to stay inside and close the windows).
I arrived back home before 10:00. I was surprised to see Tom (my husband) home. He had just started a new job that week in downtown Manhattan (Broadway and Wall Street). He was on the phone and the television was on. "What are you doing here?" I asked him. He was at work when the first plane hit. When the second plane hit he rushed to a window and could see the South Tower burning. Fortunately, he felt uneasy and felt that he should leave Manhattan. So few people had that instinct. No one thought the towers would actually fall. He left his office, went downstairs and hopped on a train and returned to Brooklyn. The subways hadn't stopped running yet.
I stared at the TV in shock along with the rest of the world. But then I thought, "We're being attacked. I have to get the kids home." I ran out the door, two blocks to their school. A school administrator was standing outside speaking to a couple of parents saying that we should leave the kids in school and that they have no idea what's going on, etc., etc. I let her finish. I didn't say a word to her. I turned to another mother and said, "I'm getting my kids," and did just that. They were each the first ones pulled from their classes that day. As I was leaving with them, I ran into a friend who was a teacher at the school. She looked upset, as we all did. She looked more upset. "Jerry works in the South Tower," she said about her husband. I immediately teared up. I told her that her kids could come stay with me. She agreed to bring them by later. I walked home with my two daughters. Their little hands were safely in my hands. Their father was safely home. We were so lucky.
Again, no one thought the towers would collapse. Soon after they fell , the sky turned very dark -- even in Brooklyn. The only way I can describe how the air looked is what I imagine an eclipse might look. There was light, but it was filtered. The air smelled toxic. We closed all the windows and doors. We didn't go outside. We saw people walking in front of our building holding whatever they had over their mouths and noses. And this was in Brooklyn.
The day dragged on. My friend's two children did spend the afternoon with us which was a real blessing. Their father ended up in New Jersey. He was late to work and never made it into the building. The only way he could get away from Manhattan was by taking a water taxi. He didn't make it home until late that night but he made it home. Remember the friend with whom I was having coffee in the morning? Her sister's husband was killed that day. We contacted friends and family as best we could. The bond created amongst all New Yorkers and the rest of the world that day was incredible. But the bond created from New Yorker to New Yorker was the most powerful. As a nurse, I contacted the local hospitals and volunteered to work if needed. I was never called. So many lives were lost. Very few people were only injured.
The next morning, I took Ginger, our dog, up to the park to run off-leash. It was very quiet. The air still smelled terrible. On my way home from the park I passed Squad One -- the fire hall a half block from my house. The fire house I passed probably more than five times a day. In front of the garage door where the trucks drive out stood one vase with a rose in it. It wasn't until that moment that I realized that our local fire men had been victims of the crashing towers. Squad One lost 13 firemen that day -- among the City's highest death tolls for fire companies.